Baptism — Infant or Adult???

This is a very sticky subject, and one that people on both sides feel strongly about.  And even though all study the same Scriptures, we come to different conclusions about Godly things.  Please be kind and I hope I have been kind as I respond to Melissa's entry about infant baptism at Twaddlemenot . My comment was getting rather lengthy so I thought I'd better us up my space instead of hers.  Melissa is a very wise young lady. She has given me much to think about with some of her past entries; however, this is one where we will have to agree to disagree — at least for now.


Shane and I believe the Bible teaches baptism, by immersion at an age when one can understand and commit to the step they are making.  An infant cannot choose to follow Christ.  Therefore, we disagree with Melissa's conclusions.  Although I will admit, that we haven't read the books that Melissa recommended but,  we have looked at the evidence she presented from other sources.  (R.C. Sproul Jr.). And, I will add, that we are not opposed to changing our mind if we are presented with compelling evidence. We've done it before and I'm certain we'll do it again.  


I wholeheartedly agree with the premise that there is much we can learn from the Old Testament.  For years, decades, maybe even centuries the universal church has forgotten about the Old Testament.  (Except for the “cute” little stories like Noah's Ark and Jonah that can be dumbed down for Sunday school classes.)    However, the Old Testament was written to the Jew, not to the Gentile.  The Jewish people were the chosen people– all of them.  Not just a few.  (As a new convert to Reformed theology, I may not get this exactly right, but bear with me).  From my new understanding.  He would wish that everyone be saved, but He knows that everyone will not be saved.   So He calls certain people, not everyone, to himself.  In other words, He has mercy on whom He has mercy and hardens who he hardens.  If everyone was  baptized as an infant,  wouldn't this be the opposite of what reformed theology is?  If we were able to convert all the adults living today and they all baptized their babies, wouldn't this be working against the reformed  free-will view? 


We know that the Old Law did not work, so God brought a new law.  One that would work, once for all.  Not for the Jew alone, but for the chosen ones of God whether Jew or Gentile. 


A compelling argument to me is Jesus's example.  He was not baptized as an infant, but as an adult.  (although, as a Jew, he would have been circumsized).  But he was one of those of the chosen race.  He needed to be circumsized as the new law did not begin until his resurrection.  But John baptized others and Jesus to show it's importance. 


Also, I have a hard time swallowing infant baptism when the book of Acts gives no specific account of it happening.  Yes, entire households were baptized.  But in further study we find that it  may or may not have included the babies in the household.  In the book of Acts, not long after Jesus is crucified,Peter gives his first sermon.  When they ask what to do to be saved he says “repent and be baptized”,

Even John calls those that were coming just to be baptized a “brood of vipers”  He told them to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (apparently they were not doing this).   How can an infant repent of wrongdoing?  And talking about Jesus's coming he says “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.”  again, a baby cannot repent of their sins. 


We feel strongly that parents should dedicate their child/ren to God's service.  This would be the “circumcision” of sorts.  Princess and Bubba both had  formal ceremonies as the church we attended then understood the importance of raising up Godly seed.  Little Bit has not been formally dedicated, but we have prayed over him and dedicated him personally to God's service. (Since he was 3 it was a little more difficult to explain– and the church we were at then would NOT have understood at all!!!)   When Tabitha comes home, she will be dedicated as well.  But as for all of their own committment to follow Christ, they will have to answer the call from Christ and be baptised for the remission of their sins of their own free-will. 




2 thoughts on “Baptism — Infant or Adult???

  1. blogs can be horrible places to debate doctrine, so i understand your request for kindness. i’m a kind guy…
    to begin, it’s not my place to instruct you – i’d rather just share my journey. if it spurs further discussion, then you and shane can have those discussions.
    i was serving as a deacon in a baptist church when i finished my personal study of baptism. i concluded that the children of believers are covenant members (not automatically saved) and should receive the sign of the covenant (baptism). imagine the conversation that ensued when i told the pastor that his head deacon had become a presbyterian. at the same time, some of my best friends came to the opposite conclusion on baptism, it’s been like that since the reformation. so, i understand why you believe what you do, and i support anyone that works through this topic, even if they end with a different conclusion.
    overall, i believe the reformed covenantal position to be correct, that is what I teach and preach. and, when someone outside of the covenant community comes to faith in Christ, then they should be given the covenantal sign of baptism (and so should the members of their household…). that is just where i am coming from – the typical reformed position.
    i am raising my kids in the covenantal community of our local church. they have all been given the objective sign of the covenant (baptism). but, none of that will save them! it may help, but Christianity is still about putting individual faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and trusting in His righteousness alone to justify you. baptism, like circumcision, is merely a sign of the covenant.

    a few thoughts from your post though…

    i want to clarify that although the jews are God’s chosen people, not all of israel is true israel…paul teaches us that not everyone in the covenant will be saved. so there is the potential of old and new covenant membership without salvation.
    also, if you don’t see an OT/NT connection leading to infant baptism, do you see a Biblical precedence for infant dedication? i only ask because someone once asked me the same question…it made me think.
    here is the issue that really challenged my baptist beliefs…if i am waiting for my children to profess faith before baptism, then i am saying they are unsaved (dead in their sins) until they make a subjective profession of faith. why then was i teaching them all along to pray to a God they didn’t know? why was i teaching them to sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ when i know for a fact that God hates sinners? i had to ask myself why i was treating them like they were believers, if i believed they were non-believers?
    lastly, what put me over the edge was my friend whose child has mental retardation. i wondered if she would ever mentally or even verbally articulate her faith. if not, she would never be given the sign of the new covenant, in a baptist church. that little girl really helped me see that the sign of baptism was given as a reminder of the promise God gives to all in the covenant objectively (not based on the faith of the individual, but on the faithfulness of God).
    anyhow, it was a journey…thanks for the post…you gave me something fun to think about in the middle of a busy day of dentistry…i loved the same two books that melissa recommended.
    have a great day! fletch


  2. Usually I don’t comment, but I’ll jump in on this one. First, most people don’t understand what “baptism” is in the scriptures. It is a greek word which refers to the Jewish Mikvah (cleansing by immersion in living water). While this is a ritual that was performed at the time of conversion to the Jewish faith by gentiles, it was also a ritual which was practiced throughout the year and several times throughout one’s life. Jesus probably went to the river to mikvah when he was 13, in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah, and continued to do so at least once a year just prior to Yom Kippur, as was the tradition for some circumstances and commanded by others. Actually, that’s why he (and thousands of others) were at the river to begin with – they were probably Mikvahing in preparation for Yom Kippur. Women went to the mikvah and immersed (“baptized”) after every menstual cycle.

    As for it being a replacement for the circumcision as a sign of belief, well I disagree with the premise but even if it were accurate, Jews were commanded and have always (even today) circumcised at 8 days of age and I doubt that the baby boy has much choice in the matter. He parents choose to put him under a covenant and to wear the mark of that covenant. I would assume that if Jewish parents were commanded to put their children under the covenant as infants, baptism today would be the same thing and can and should be done as an infant by the parents (dedication to raise child under covenant) and again by the person when they reach the age of accountability. (Up until the age of 13, the parents are held accountable for the sins of the child). Neither the Circumsion nor the Mikvah (baptism) were ever about salvation I feel it’s wrong to equate them as such.

    Small point: The Old Law was put in place for a specific purpose and did (and still does) work (G-d doesn’t make things that don’t work). Many people think that the Jewish “Law” was created as a means of Salvation and that is wrong. Salvation has always been by faith and repentance. Throughout the book of Dueteronomy, G-d commands the people to keep the law for variouse reasons, some of which were: (1) “… so that it will go well with you in the land I’m giving you to possess” and (2) so that they will be set apart and that when other nations look upon them they will know and believe in the one true G-d. And (just to open another can of worms), they were to be kept “throughout ALL your generations” and were for the native born and the aliens who lived among them (converts).

    Okay, that’s enough. This is supposed to be a comment, not a blog entry. Thanks for the space.



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